Today, belatedly, I realized that curiosity is an essential ingredient in doing experiments, and experiments are a perfect opportunity to practice curiosity. The very attitude we have when running an experiment–will this work or not, what outcome will we get–fits at least my definition of curiosity. A true experiment is trying something and waiting to see what comes out.
It’s possible to do some things like trying out a new recipe, which some people might describe as “an experiment”, without really experimenting, that is, while still being wedded to a certain outcome (and creating a certain amount of stress for oneself).
This morning I got into the streetcar and sat down before I realized why my favorite seat was still free. There was a man in the next row ranting, I never did really find out why. I was about to change seats and then I remembered something my first Tai Chi teacher told me–that the energy of being centered can calm people down around you. He cited an example from his own life about an argument in his office where he succeeded at calming the people down without saying a word, simply by sinking into the basic centered Tai Chi position. I thought I’d like to try that and started a breathing exercise to center myself. In the course of the breathing and centering, I realized that I was truly experimenting. If it didn’t work, it was no skin off my nose. I wanted to see what it was like to try and what might come out of it.
I did a pretty good but not great job of centering myself. I can’t say it affected the man in the next row, though, and he got off after about five minutes so it was a rather short experiment. But it was interesting. And it was curiosity lived.